Updated: Nov 3, 2022
In part one of the author branding series, we discussed the basics of author branding and its importance. Part two is shifting the focus to the creation of your brand.
Building an authentic author brand is a process. Each step has its purpose, helping you unlock the heart and magic of your brand.
All too often, writers rush off to the design step without carefully determining what they want their visuals to say. Jumping steps frequently leads them back to the drawing board when they realize their message, audience, and visuals don't align.
Eliminate as much wasted time and effort as possible by following this two-stage process.
Let's work through these stages below.
I. How to Create Your Author Brand Strategy
Before you design your brand identity, there's another step to complete—defining your brand strategy.
If your Three Bs represent the foundation pillars of your branding, then your strategy is your blueprint. It's where you outline the direction of your messaging and your visuals.
Step #1: Define and visualize your 'why.'
There will come a time when you'll ask yourself these questions. Why did I start writing? Why did I believe becoming an author was the best career choice?
We often ask those questions when our success doesn't match our expectations, or we hit a snag and lose our way. Knowing your reason for embarking on this literary journey will help you:
stay on track
reignite your passion
and realign your purpose and focus
Consider printing out your why and sticking it over your desk, somewhere in your planner, or create a wallpaper for your phone and other devices. Anywhere you can see it often as a constant reminder.
Vision boards are a fun option for visualizing your why. Creating one with images and quotes about the life you want to live and the mindset you need to achieve it is another way of keeping your why at the fore of your mind.
Step #2: Know what you're branding.
You are your brand, not your books. Your writing and cover design tie back to your branding, but they are not the key focus. Your readers are interested in you. You'll create an emotional connection and foster readership loyalty by showing them the personality behind the books.
Naming Your Brand
Many self-published and traditional authors use pen names for their author personas. Some choose this option for personal reasons like privacy. Others have multiple ventures, so having more than one pen name simplifies their branding and marketing.
Writing in multiple genres. Your ideal audiences won't be the same if you write young adult contemporary and adult horror. Writing under two pen names will separate the two brands and eliminate confusion for your audience.
Writers versus Readers. If you offer services for authors and readers, use two different names. One for your author's website and another for your business. Catchall branding can become clunky and unfocused after a while.
Step #3: Define your brand personality, voice, and story.
Branding is about setting the tone for readers. Make a list of adjectives you'd want readers to associate with your brand. If you've started building your platform, check what readers are saying. You'll need this list of adjectives in later sections to work on your brand/mission statement and designs.
Your author's personality might deviate from who you are in your personal life. If you're a chronic introvert, you're likely quiet and reserved. But, creating meaningful connections requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. In that case, people might say your brand is vibrant, bold, approachable, or down-to-earth.
I always chuckle when people assume I'm an extrovert. If they met me in person, I'd be the quiet one in the corner with my nose in a book or watching a kdrama.
Step #4: Determine your unique selling point.
The never-ending question of 'why' continues. Why should readers buy your books and engage with you and your content?
To answer this 'why,' you must figure out your unique selling point (USP). That one thing that makes you stand out or different from your competition.
A strong author brand requires distinction.
If you're an Urban Fantasy author, do you approach the standard conventions with a twist? Do you offer unique perspectives on fan-loved troupes? Are your books fantastical reimaginings of fan-loved contemporary stories?
Ask yourself: What do you want to be known for? What is your author superpower?
Finding your USP or superpower (strengths) isn't always easy. Sometimes it takes experimenting until you find something that clicks.
Examples of unique selling points:
Twists on troupes, clichés, and genre conventions;
Quality of your writing;
The genius of your character development and creating swoon-worthy characters;
Quirky writing style or voice;
Evaluate fellow authors you love and ask yourself why. Why are their books on your shelf? Do you share similar traits with them? Do you do anything distinctively different?
Pinpoint 2-3 unique selling points for yourself as an author. Too broad a focus will lessen the effects of your marketing campaigns. The book publishing business is highly competitive.
The most successful author brands stand out because they fit a space that no one else or few others occupy. They're memorable and stand out in the minds of their readership.
If you're a published author, watch out for what readers say in the comments and compare notes. You may be surprised to find that you have more than one superpower.
Step #5: Identify your ideal readers.
Identifying your niche audience means finding the intersection between your interest, personality, and the people who naturally connect with both.
Neither you nor your books will appeal to everyone. One of the top mistakes many authors make is trying to be everything to everyone. The driving theory is that the wider the pool, the higher the chance of success. Becoming a "catchall" will hurt your chances of reaching the right people.
Readers know where they fit and what works for them.
They are searching for their literary happy place. The author who understands them and what they want to read. The worlds and themes they want to explore. They are searching for an experience, and you can't provide it for everyone.
Finding your ideal readership
Create a composite character sketch of your ideal audience by focusing on a single person.
For this exercise, let's say your ideal reader's name is Pearl.
Who is Pearl? What's her background?
What are her defining qualities and characteristics?
What does she like or dislike?
What kind of books does she already have on her shelf?
What are her interests?
Where does she hang out online?
What do you have in common that could create a deeper connection?
Defining Pearl and others like her from the start will supercharge your marketing campaigns. When you understand who you're speaking to, you can craft the best messaging to reach them.
As you grow and change as a writer, your interests may shift. These changes will affect your target customers as you may lose your emotional connection with some of your readership.
It happens all the time.
Don't be afraid of the change. Revise your strategy and rebrand your author platform.
Step #6: Define your vision for your writing career.
Outlining your vision for your author business ties together the above five steps with what you hope to accomplish. Both on a personal level and for your writing career.
Write out your brand or mission statement. Note your brand, its purpose and objectives, the target audience, and the adjectives that describe your brand.
Here is an example:
Writerly Owl Designs [brand] is a friendly, educational, and no-nonsense [adjectives] blog focused on providing quality content about branding and design [purpose] to aspiring and established self-published authors [the audience], so they can create their authentic author brand, attract their ideal readers, and stand out from the competition to sell more books [objective].
This statement is your guidepost. Everything you do from here—setting goals, marketing, promotion, and brand design—stems from your brand/mission statement. It's the core identity of your brand summarized.
Potential readers want to know what you're about. For you to tell them with confidence, be clear on your:
Purpose/promise to readers
Step #7: Set business goals for your career.
Building an author platform takes a lot of work and planning. Start with the end in mind.
Now that you understand your brand mission, it's time to outline corresponding goals. The actions you need to take to accomplish your objectives and fulfill your promises to readers. These goals should also align with the reader experience you want to create.
#1. Be strategic.
Everything you do and say, all the content you create, should echo your vision, mission, and purpose. Use these to guide you toward the things that matter most for the success of your author business.
#2. Set measurable goals.
While specifying your goals, note essential milestones. These milestones are how you measure your success.
Goal setting examples:
Increase book sales in Q1.
>>This goal is vague and incomplete without the how or metrics attached.
Instead, rewrite it as:
Revamp marketing materials and promote old and new books to increase book sales in Q1 to earn $100/500/1000
>>You're outlining the how and milestones for good/better/best results.
#3. Create a system to track your progress.
Create a system for planning and organizing your goals, projects, and action steps. Keeping track of all this information, whether in a physical planner or digitally, will help you monitor your progress towards your desired outcomes.
Referencing the example above, at the end of Q1, you can analyze your projects and action steps when reviewing your goals and achievements. From this evaluation, you'll learn what worked in achieving your desired results and what strategies require revisions.
II. Creating Your Author Brand Identity and Awareness
Once you've completed stage one and cemented your brand strategy, you'll have all the tools you need to tackle Stage 2.
You can either learn how to design your branding or work with a graphic designer. Whichever option you choose, you'll need to do some research. Learn about the basics and visualize what you want your branding to look like.
Step #1: Choosing the Aesthetics of Your Brand
Pinterest will be your best friend for Stage 2 of creating your author brand. It's a visual search engine with millions of inspirations.
Create a board and start populating it with color palette inspirations, logo ideas, images, or whatever sparks an idea for your visual elements.
Look at branding designs from other authors in and outside of your genre. Seeing examples of the needed elements will give you somewhere to start and spark ideas.
Working With a Graphic Designer
Approach a graphic designer with at least a basic idea of what you want from your design and the experience of creating them.
The clearer you are about the look and feel you desire, the easier it'll be for you to instruct a designer, making the branding process less tedious.
You'll receive design feedback, of course, but you know the heart of your brand better than anyone else.
Be specific with your feedback about what you like and don't. And don't be afraid to ask questions. Working with a designer is a collaborative effort.
Step #2: Design Your Branding
Here are the essential brand-related elements you should add to your arsenal.
Your logo is a central element in your branding. It represents you and your brand, wrapped in a single design.
Types of Logos
Your logo can be a Logotype, which comprises only your logo's typography. It's a timeless approach used to promote name recognition. Everything rests on the font or fonts used.
If you're looking for something more unique and personalized, choose a Logomark. These types of logos feature a symbolic image or icon. Go for something with meaning. Either for you as an author or for the genre you write.
Design Note: Your icon is also helpful as a favicon for your website.
Mix the two (Logotype and Logomark) to create variants for your secondary and submark logos.
Variants widen the application of your logo for a variety of purposes.
You won't always be able to use your primary logo because of the spacing available on your website or graphics. When working with limited spacing, your secondary and submark logos will come in handy.
2. Color Scheme
Your brand colors further set the mood for what readers can expect.
If you write horror, dark, dominant colors evoke a sense of tension and foreboding. Likewise, you might opt for a more subdued color scheme of pastels and calming tones if you write women's fiction.
Remember the adjectives you listed in your strategy? Think about the colors that would best represent the top three.
Finding the right font combination is an art. It can make or break the overall design of your branding. The wrong font will stick out in a bad way.
Don't use the typography of your logo anywhere else. It will diminish the impact. Choose fonts for your headers and body text that compliment your branding theme.
If you work with a designer, you may receive fonts files, or you can choose your own.
4. Business Cards
Your business card is an extension of you and your business. It keeps you visible when you're not in the room. It also provides contact points for readers and other interested parties who want to collaborate with you.
5. Author Brand Style Guide
Your brand style guide displays all of your brandings in one place. It's your reference sheet for when you're designing your website, social media posts, and book marketing graphics.
Your style guide will keep you on track as you actively mold your image and control public perceptions by telling your own story.
Other Brand Style Elements
Social media banners
Social media posts
Email newsletter template
Digital media kit
Blog post image templates
6. Author Blog or Website
Your website is your Author HQ. It's where readers visit to learn more about you, your books, or what events you're hosting.
Fellow authors and companies may visit your website if they consider pitching you a collaboration opportunity.
Your website should reflect the entirety of your brand. From your messaging to your visual designs, all in one cohesive presentation.
Design Note: Add a page with your media kit for added convenience in case someone wants to contact you or feature you in their content. These branded design elements will help keep your branding consistent everywhere you're featured.
Step #3: Apply Your Brand Everywhere
Apply your brand on your social media profiles, business cards, email graphics, promotional items, website...everywhere.
It's how you'll rise above the clutter and reach your target audience by building brand recognition.
Cohesive branding creates a consistent experience for readers and builds reader trust. It establishes how you're different, bringing an air of professionalism to your author business.
The brands that last and thrive don't happen by chance. Meticulous crafting and consistent application are the foundation.
As an authorpreneur, use your brand to set yourself apart and maintain a connection with your audience.
Create a brand strategy:
Define your 'why' to get through rough patches and stay aligned with your purpose;
Know what you're branding;
Define your brand personality, voice, and story;
Determine your unique selling point,
Identify your ideal readers;
Define the vision for your writing career;
Set business goals and track your progress.
From there, the visual strategy for your author platform will flourish.
Build and maintain a cohesive identity across all digital and print media platforms.
Showcase your brand in every interaction you have on and offline.
Consistency builds brand awareness.
It builds trust and fosters a genuine connection between you and your readership to create a loyal fanbase.
This connection is the magic of your authentic author brand. It will help you gain the exposure you crave and sell more books.
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